Character Death in Shadowrun: Corporate SINs.

Hoi, Chummers! Tony (aka, Cromwell) here.

This week’s CorpSINs was one of our favorites. And when I say we, I mean the players: our characters are pretty miserable. ­čÖé

Lauren and the Thumpers who run Aztechnology did a great job of putting the party in an ethical dilemma with no happy outcome, which was pretty well guaranteed to split the party. And in trying to find an outcome that wouldn’t abandon either the victims (including Fang’s brother) or the values of the group (by killing one or more individuals who aren’t culpable for the situation), a clear and unfortunate option presented itself: If Cromwell can survive VITAS, and then allow himself to be sacrificed as part of┬áthe Aztechnology Blood Magic Ritual, he won’t be asking anyone to do anything he isn’t prepared to do himself.

Shadowrun’s Sixth World is a pretty deadly place. There are rooms for all sorts of adventures in the Sixth World, and the terms Pink Mohawk and Black Trenchcoat have emerged to describe styles of play, from crazy-concept-don’t-sweat-the-details-fantasy to gritty-count-every-bullet-realism. When NERDProv first starting meeting with Zac and Jordan, we made a few decisions up front:

  1. The Sixth World doesn’t hand out happy endings. Victories are short-lived, bitter-sweet, and often come with consequences as bad as the original problem.
  2. A real Black Trenchcoat campaign would require a lot of on-camera rules lawyering and dice rolling. That can be fun when you’re playing, but would likely be less fun to watch.
  3. The Sixth World has no Resurrection: Character death should be permanent. The cast member doesn’t leave, but the chance of death should be real.

Of course, Shadowrun 5e has one hedge against the lethal nature of the Sixth World. Edge. Characters have a small number of Edge points, which can be spent to the character’s advantage, and which regenerate up to a certain maximum. If a character dies in a way that there might be the tiniest chance of escape from, that character can permanently burn an edge, and the GM will seriously consider letting the character survive.

Personally, I like that system, but it does mean that characters aren’t going to die under most normal circumstances. (Caveat: some deaths are too lethal for edge to work). But Pink Mohawk or not, we try to play our characters honestly, and there are situations where they might choose to sacrifice their lives. So we know that option is there.

All that said, we discuss options and outcomes, sometimes, but we don’t script our game. Personally, I feel I can always tell when a story is on a rail. We’re all improvisers, and I think the best moments are the ones where the audience and the players discover what’s happening at the same time. (Also true when I GM, I love being surprised and having to change all my plans).

We don’t script, but we do talk about options. We generally have an idea for what our fellow improvisers would enjoy or be excited about, and we talk about what sorts of things we want to see (as well as what Thumpers seem to be enjoying and want explored in the future).

To bring it back to last night: I like Cromwell a lot. He’s one of my favorite characters I’ve ever played, and I’ve invested a lot of time into him. As a player, I certainly will do everything I can to keep him alive, as long as those actions are in keeping with his character. Not just for myself: Thumpers are donating money to Cromwell, and I think it’d be unfair to not to honor their donatations by using them to fulfill Cromwell’s mission as well as he can.

But I have let Lauren and the other players know that I don’t want them to pull any punches on my behalf. If Cromwell dies, and his chances currently don’t look good, I’ve let everyone know I’ll not only be okay with that, but I’ll consider it a fitting end for the character!┬áThere may be some stories we haven’t explored with Cromwell, but over the last few months, I think we’ve learned a lot about who he is. Taking down Brackhaven may have meant more to Cromwell than anyone, and that mission is complete. And if Cromwell dies, at least one of his┬ástories is going to come looking for him! ­čÖé

And now you know about as much as we do (Lauren excepted) about what comes next!

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